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Big Ideas

Big Ideas

December 18, 2014

Vol 41 • No 15

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Big Ideas for Arkansas 2014

Readers and experts suggest ways to change Arkansas for the better.

Packing in Walmart

Also, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's inglorious exit, a bumpy ride, friends in high places and Eugene Ellison, by the numbers.

Portis must carry Hogs

Arkansas basketball is such a weird, aggravating thing. I don't know if the karmic tradeoff for one blissful year of "40 Minutes of Hell" was two ensuing decades of purgatory, but it sure seems that way.

'Rape culture' merits scrutiny

If the great Rolling Stone campus rape hoax proved nothing else, it's that True Believers make lousy reporters. I've always found it useful to keep in mind what my brother and I call the state motto of our native New Jersey: "Oh yeah, who says?"

Unrestricted high explosives, available at a sporting goods store near you

It's 'dangerous stuff,' according to a Little Rock bomb squad member.

Still the best

One Eleven, formerly know as Ashley's, hits all the right notes.

The Little Rock Top 10

Here are the Little Rock albums we listened to more than any others this year, the ones that meant the most to us and that we'd push on any out-of-towners who asked what was new in the Little Rock music scene.

Three days of Garth

The veteran country star Garth Brooks played his favorites, and sang with wife Trisha Yearwood, in an unprecedented-for-Arkansas three-day run of concerts at Verizon Arena.

Old Testament in CGI

'Exodus' wows, but skimps on storytelling.

Raping with impunity

In Gene Lyons' Dec. 11 column "Rolling Stone Now Publishing Fiction," he asked a rhetorical question: "Had American culture really coarsened to where college boys could rape with impunity?" I'm writing this letter because I thought he might like to know that question has been empirically answered by social scientists.

Full confession

The Observer lingered a bit last week over the story of the 11-year-old from Bryant who nicked $10,000 from her grandma's sock drawer, hitchhiked to Little Rock in the dead of night, then hired a taxicab to take her to Jacksonville, Fla., apparently on a mission to see a boy she'd met on vacation a few years prior.

Women's work in the House

The new Republican majority in Arkansas came with the support of female majorities in some key races.

Q&A: Let's Talk Figures

The warped visionaries behind the Fayetteville record label open up (sort of).

Amasa Hines at the Afterthought

Also, Jim Mize at Vino's.

Good policies, bad politics

Democrats are like Republicans in one way. One party or the other suffers devastating losses at least every eight years and then engages in a noisy search for blame and atonement.

"Blue Velvet" at Ron Robinson Thursday

Also, 'Texas Love Letter' Listening Party at South on Main, Celebrity Karaoke at Verizon Arena, Jimbo Mathus at White Water, Improv at the Public Theater and Rick Ross at Barton Coliseum.

Police say three dead in apparent double homicide-suicide

Police found three people shot to death in an apartment at 1420 Breckenridge Drive about 10 p.m. Wednesday night. They believe Joshua Minor, 38, killed his grandmother, Betty Joe Chapman, 86, and his mother, Lisa Rochelle Minor Chapman, 60, before killing himself. The suspect has the same name and birthdate as holder of a Facebook account with pro-gun posts.

You want on-line education? 'UA' has on-line education

Somehow, I don't think the big full-page ad in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette announcing a full range of on-line college courses at the University of Arkansas was a coincidence of timing.

No Supreme Court decision today in same-sex marriage appeal

The Arkansas Supreme Court released no decision today in the appeal of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling invalidating the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The Trade With Cuba Scorecard: To some, agriculture doesn't matter

The roundup of Arkansas opinions on normalizing trade with Cuba was not surprising. What continues to be cause for moderate interest is how little Arkansas agriculture matters in the political equation. Tom Cotton continues to oppose moves of obvious benefit to Arkansas rice and poultry producers.

The Duggar clan provides big boost, unintentionally, for gay kids

Still more good news for Lucie's Place, the small Little Rock nonprofit that works to help homeless LGBT youths. It's added a $10,000 grant to $30,000 raised in a symbolic response to the Duggar family's support for discrimination against gay people in Fayetteville.

Report: Arkansas least prepared for infectious disease outbreak

A study of the states' ability to deal with infectious disease scored Arkansas at the very bottom.

Legislators have no preference on Razorback bowl tickets

The University of Arkansas says legislators will have to pay for Texas Bowl tickets like everyone else — seat assignments depend on contributions to the Razorback Foundation.

Apple CEO contributes to gay rights initiative in Arkansas

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has made a substantial but undisclosed contribution to the Human Rights Campaign that targets Southern states, including Arkansas, with a campaign to improve outlooks on equality for LGBT people.

Former Ouachita County judge gets 33-month federal sentence in bribery case

Michael Hesterly of Camden, the former Ouachita County judge, was sentenced today to 33 months in federal prison for taking a bribe to rig a disaster cleanup contract financed with federal money.

New music from Mildriot, College Station Camron, Dividend and more

A baffling, instant-classic Christmas anthem from Mildriot, a.k.a Michael Chavez, who used to go by Miles Rattz and released a really good record over the summer called "Fought Songs" on the UK label Sister 9 Recordings.

Issue 3? What Issue 3? Lobbyists slop hogs at lunch break deemed 'special event'

The lobby has now figured out if you call a lunch break for a legislative committee a special event you can feed freebies to legislators. Or at least you can as long as people like Sen. Missy Irvin decree that it's acceptable.

Citizens pay panel sets first work meeting

The independent citizens commission that will review state constitutional, legislative and judicial salaries and legislative per diem and reimbursements for expenses and travel will meet at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 30 at a place yet to be determined to get to work on the considerable task that the recently approved Amendment 3 creates for them. They expect it to be an all-day meeting.

UPDATE: Indictments in federally financed summer food program

The U.S. attorney's office has announced a news conference at 12:30 p.m. today to announce indictments related to "federal program fraud."

Thursday's open line and video roundup; market bullish; Doubletree changing hands

The Thursday open line. Good day in the market. Doubletree Hotel changing hands.

Plaintiffs' lawyers partner with attorney generals for paydays

The New York Times' continuing look at attorney general offices focuses today on plaintiff attorneys' hookup with Democratic attorney generals on class action cases. The lawyers get big fees. The politicians get big campaign contributions. Arkansas has been a part of the lucrative business

The Big Swill: There IS a free lunch if you're a legislator

A new amendment that bans gifts to legislators hasn't slowed down the serving of free meals, sometimes with inventive excuses such as declaration of a "scheduled activity" to allow the county government lobby to feed legislators a free box lunch.

Arkansas jobless rate drops to national average

The Arkansas unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in November, from 6.1 percent the month before, which brought the state rate to the national average. The state workforce grew by 8,100.

North Korea blamed for Sony hack; Obama says 'mistake' to pull movie

The FBI announces that North Korea is responsible for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which included threats on theaters that showed "The Interview," a comedy about assassination of the North Korean president.

$14.5 million default judgment against sports collector John Rogers

First Arkansas Bank and Trust of Jacksonville was given a $14.5 million default judgment today against John Rogers, the photograph and sports memorabilia collector, George Waldon reports for Arkansas Business.

Alice Walton reported as buyer of $4.5 million Noguchi table

Artinfo quotes sources as saying Alice Walton was the buyer of an Isamu Noguchi table sold at auction this week for $4.5 million.

Beebe unveils official portrait

Gov. Mike Beebe unveiled his official portrait today at the Capitol with Ovita Goolsby, the Garland County artist who painted it.

Supreme Court still silent on marriage case

The Arkansas Supreme Court issued no word today about the state's appeal of Judge Chris Piazza's decision striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

TGIF open line

Here's today's open line.

Holiday Staff Picks: 'Lilyhammer,' The Dream Scene, Christmas gift ideas, recipes and more

Perfect for the season: The Netflix series "Lilyhammer," starring Steve Van Zandt as a protected witness mobster living in Norway. Lots of snow. Van Zandt brings his felonious ways to prim and proper Norway in slapstick fashion as a nightclub operator with Norwegian good fellows. Great scenery. A good dose of information on Scandinavian socialism and folkways.

The Santa Claus Keeps Coming To The Legislature Edition

Max and Lindsey continue their regular feature on lawmakers abusing the new ethics law, and talk about the Arkansas Supreme Court, state government appointments and exits, a new civil rights ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas Baptist’s big bailout, a really expensive cab ride and the prospect of Bush v. Clinton II.

About that $4.5 million Noguchi table Alice Walton may have bought

Max Brantley posted on the Arkansas Blog news from BLOUIN ARTINFO while I was out about the auction of an Isamu Noguchi table that sources say Alice Walton was the high bidder on — paying $4,450,500. maybe she also bought the "Managing Committee Table," designed by Balkrishna Doshi and Le Corbusier, 1953-54. The auction house estimated it would sell for $300,000 to $400,000, but the winning bid was $1.8 million.

Republican legislators propose to expand execution witnesses to include victim's family

KTHV reports on plans by two Republican legislators to push a bill in 2015 to allow a family member of the victim in a capital case to witness the execution.

Marriage equality advances to 36 states

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Friday to extend a stay of a court ruling invalidating the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida, which means marriages will begin in that state Jan. 6. This leaves Arkansas in a decided minority of states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

An open line: Plus an Arkie to the federal bench in Texas

An open line and a judgeship for Trey Schroeder of Texarkana.

A tribute to Asa Hutchinson for remarks on torture

A tribute to Asa Hutchinson's lonely position in the Republican Party in confirming what a recent Senate report said about the use of torture against U.S. enemies.

Legislators looking for outs on new ethics amendment

Already lobbyists and legislators are looking for angles to get around the new ban on gifts by lobbyists and people who employ them to lawmakers. Many seem desperate to hang onto their Razorback freebies.

The bigots-are-going-to-be-bigots open line

The Baptist bigots won't settle for any compromise on a new Fayetteville city rights ordinance. Christians who want to discriminate against gay people must be protected.

Root Cafe the Growing America winner on HLN

How apt: The Root Cafe is the viewer-chosen winner of the documentary series "Growing America: A Journey to Success," on HLN TV. The show's idea: that MBAs from the country's most prestigious universities could help businesses to, well, leaf out.

Conservative dismisses Huckabee as presidential contender

Mike Huckabee is making a serious exploration of a presidential bid — all the while keeping his Fox News checks flowing — but here's one conservative writer at the National Review who thinks he's not a serious contender.

Wendell Griffen comments on police slayings

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who writes frequently on police-community relationships, has a new blog post about the slayings of two New York police officers as they sat in a patrol car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a man with a lengthy record of crime and mental instability who left social media comments on recent highly publicized police killings of suspects.

Last minute gift guide for hopeless procrastinators

Last minute gifts can be awesome — you just need to grab some of these local Arkansas delights.

Quapaw Quarter Association closes on historic Woodruff House

With almost $100,000 financial help from the city and state, the Quapaw Quarter Association has completed purchase of the historic William E. Woodruff House at 1023 E. 8th Street on the east side of Little Rock.

Dixie hopes to drive 2016 Republican presidential nominee

Politico reports on the plan of Southern states, including Arkansas, to hold 2016 presidential primaries on the same day, March 1, in hopes of guiding the Republican Party to selection of a candidate more in tune with the region.

Root Cafe a $25,000 winner in TV documentary series

Check out Eat Arkansas for some reality TV worth talking about. The Root Cafe won $25,000 in an HLN TV documentary series aimed at helping small businesses.

Fire this morning at Forest Place Apartments

A fire early this morning at Forest Place Apartments near Cantrell and University Ave., the same complex plagued by a series of fires in 2013 which were determined to be the work of a serial arsonist. Investigators say this morning's fire does not appear to have been intentionally set, however, blaming the blaze on faulty wiring.

Conway Corp. makes $3 million pledge for UCA science center

The University of Central Arkansas announced today a $3 million gift, payable over five years beginning in 2016, from the Conway Corporation, the city-owned utility system. In other words, ratepayers are paying sufficient rates to allow for the $3 million contribution.

The Big Gray Apple open line. Plus, could a gay couple get a manger in Fayetteville?

An open line from New York City and a thought about whether gay people could have even got a manger in Bethelehem. Not if the Fayetteville morals police had anything to say about it, I don't think.

Hutchinson names Daryl Bassett to head Workforce Services

Asa Hutchinson names secretary of state staffer to head Workforce Services Department and a gas lobbyist as deputy director of the Economic Development Commission.

Stone Links golf course sold; neighbors leery

Buddy Bean, the owner of Stone Links golf course for the past 16 years, says the links-style course sold at auction on Dec. 11 for "a little over $2 million."

North Korea Internet down. White House: No comment

North Korea's Internet has been down since Sunday, Bloomberg reports. Is this a U.S. payback for the Sony cyberattack?

Will Common Core repeal go anywhere in Arkansas? Don't count on it.

Activists and some conservative lawmakers will probably try to take on Common Core State Standards this session. They'll probably not succeed.

Live: Weedhorse, Flat Top Tony and John Neal Rock and Roll at Revolution (Photos)

I arrived at The Rev Room Friday at 7:15 p.m., as a bartender was setting up for a busy night. I saw Mark Colbert (soundman) and Mark Sadler (lighting) and we talked shop a while. I saw Samantha "Sam" Allen (venue manager) and we caught up as well. Soon I met and interviewed Richie Barnard, the website coordinator for the Little Rock Scene, whose 10 Year Anniversary we were here to celebrate.

FBI: Anonymous threat against interstate bridge at Memphis

Stations in Memphis are reporting that the FBI field office there has alerted local law enforcement about an anonymous threat to blow up s bridge over the Mississippi River, though officials say the threat contains "no actionable intelligence." The western end of the is in West Memphis.

Beebe prepares for departure, hard drives intact

Gov. Mike Beebe will leave office without destroyed computer hard drives, as his predecessor Mike Huckabee did.

Appeals court: North Carolina anti-abortion bill went too far

North Carolina went farther than even Arkansas with mandated ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion — to far, a federal appeals court has now ruled.

One gas company remains bullish on Fayetteville shale

The gas glut and dropping prices have brought a dramatic reduction in gas exploration activity in Arkansas's Fayetteville shale zone. But one company forges on and is featured prominently in today's New York Times. It's Steve Mueller, CEO of Southwestern Energy.

U.S. growth rate highest in ten years; Arkansas economy also looking up

National GDP grew by 5 percent in the third quarter, according to a revised figure by the U.S. Commerce Department. Arkansas Business reported yesterday that forecasters also predict a strong year of growth ahead for Arkansas. We're still waiting for Obamacare to deliver its promised economic implosion.

Sony says limited theaters will show "The Interview" on Christmas Day, among them Little Rock's Riverdale 10

The film will be coming to Riverdale 10 and a few other theaters after all.

Stacy Hurst to head Dept. of Arkansas Heritage; Nate Smith will stay at Health Dept.

Asa Hutchinson announces a new director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage — Stacy Hurst. The Arkansas Department of Health will continue under Dr. Nate Smith.

FDA will change lifetime ban on gay blood donors to one-year restriction

Since 1983, the FDA has prohibited donations of blood from a man who has had sex with another man at any point in his life. Now the agency will only prohibit donations from men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months.

'American Encounters' finale coming from Louvre to CBM in May

The final "American Encounters" collaboration of the Musee du Louvre, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Terra Foundation for American Art comes to Arkansas next year when "The Simple Pleasures of Still Life" opens May 16 at CBM in Bentonville. Its first showing is Feb. 5-April 27 at the Louvre.

McDaniel appeals federal marriage ruling; objects to fee for lawyer in case

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today the state's intention to appeal a federal district court ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. He used the occasion to complain about the Arkansas Supreme Court's tardiness in ruling on a state case. Today he also ripped a fee request by lawyer Cheryl Maples in the marriage case.

Lottery Commission to meet again on vendor contract

The Arkansas Lottery Commission will meet by telephone Monday, Dec. 29, to consider extension of the contract with Intralot to provide online lottery game services.

Highway Department suspends bidding on road work because of federal money uncertainty

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has scrapped bidding on three road projects set for Jan. 27 because of uncertainty about the flow of federal reimbursements.

The window shopping open line; anybody with LR Main Street memories?

Through the miracle of the interwebs, I'll throw the Tuesday line open from New York City, where I'm just back from walking the avenues amid throngs of shoppers undeterred by fog, mist and temperatures in the 40s.

Police: Officer shot armed teen in St. Louis county

A police officer in Berkeley, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis near Ferguson, shot and killed a teen who reportedly pointed a gun at him in a gas station late Tuesday.

How red states are making Obamacare even worse for themselves

Republicans are fighting court battles that could turn the massive red-state benefit of Obamacare into a red-state subsidy of blue states.

State to stop placing youths in Yell County detention

Pressed to act finally by a continuing series of reports by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Chad Day, the state is going to stop sending youths to the Yell County juvenile detention center until a full investigation is completed of abusive practices there.

UPDATE: LR police, fire responding to report of explosive device

Little Rock police and fire departments are checking report of an explosive device inside what a man thought had been a gift left in his driveway.

Opinions split within GOP on "law and order" issues. Where will Asa stand?

The New York Times reports that some Republicans are trending away from the lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach to criminal justice embraced by the party's old guard, in part out of a recognition that minority votes matter now more than ever. Asa Hutchinson wants to reach out to black voters — what better place to start?

Peace on earth absent at Jermain Taylor's house

The Pulaski sheriff's office was called to a disturbance at boxer Jermain Taylor's estate near Maumelle again today. A woman complained of damage to her car and a minor injury in some kind of altercation in which Taylor figured. No charges. Disputants referred to the prosecutor.

The Christmas Eve open line

All who observe Christmas have their traditions. Mine has come to include a Christmas Eve open line with a reference to the enduring "Polar Express."

Humanists sue over Baxter County nativity scene. Looks like another winner

The Baxter Bulletin reported today on a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Baxter County resident over the Nativity scene that has been erected on the Baxter County Courthouse lawn for decades by local lawyer Rick Spencer.